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july and august 02 dispatches




08-26-02   dean: down under and more bathroom police

First, our new friend John Douglas from Sydney is having an anti-corporate anti-assimilationist art show that you should go to if you're in that hemisphere. Find out more at his site.

Second, I'm embarking on the intimidating but essential process of trying to change the bathroom organizational structure at the organization that hosts my new law project. It's a big poverty law center with a lot of different projects in it targetting different groups of poor people in NYC. The organization has offices on 4 different floors of the building its in--sometimes taking up the whole floor, sometimes sharing the floor with another non-profit. Most people who work here know about my bathroom arrest, and many worked here during the year that I was working here and coming out as trans. At different points I've talked to a few people about the need to alter the bathroom situation here to make it more safe and accessible to trans employees and clients. Currently, all the floors only have typical multi-stall "mens" and "womens" bathrooms. Bathroom keys marked "mens" and "womens" are available inside the offices, to be taken into the hallway where the bathrooms are (shared with whatever other offices are on the floor). My strategy, I think, is going to be starting by talking to a few more people casually about my desire to change the situation, and ultimately writing a letter to the entire organization and scheduling a meeting talking about the need for safe bathroom options for the trans clients and staff we already have and the many trans clients that my project will attract. The letter will also outline what the counterarguments are (safety, modesty, etc.) and some potential solutions to these issues. I'll post the letter when I write it so you can all run out and use it to make the bathrooms safe where you work or go to school or get services.

Anyway, what I wanted to tell you today was about how I was having this conversation on Friday with 2 of my co-workers about how I want to create safe non-gendered bathroom options here, and of course the safety issue came up. They told me that the bathrooms used to not have locks, but after there was an incident where a male client went into the women's room and exposed himself to an employee, the locks were put on the bathroom doors. They said they thought that the memory of this incident might be an obstacle to my mission. They were telling me a story in which, clearly, the "w" on the bathroom door had not kept anyone safe, just as writing "womens" on a key that anyone can take to go into the bathroom won't keep a potential perpetrator from accessing that space. Yet, the story was supposed to illustrate the idea that the gendered classifications of toilets somehow protects women from male sexual violence. On the other hand, we know for a fact that having these labels on the doors produces an overtly unsafe situation for trans and gender variant people who routinely experience violence, humiliation, and embarrassment at the hands of everyday people who feel the need to enforce this classification scheme. It made me think a lot about how another security culture that I keep running into, the one that causes airport security to take everything out of my bag and line it up on a table and laugh at my dicks, similarly is very performative, and very ineffectual at keeping people safe, but produces a lot of new dangers for all kinds of marginalized people.

It's scary to think about interracting with people's very personal, very closely held feelings of modesty and safety around bathrooms, and trying to force them to think about a set of unsafe experiences that they may never consider and may unintentionally take part in producing frequently. I'll let you know how it goes.


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08-23-02   dean: order this comic book, and give them all your $

An activist I work with, Adalina, is selling a comic book to raise money to hire a defense lawyer for her sister's boyfriend who has been accused of killing a cop in New Orleans. Below is some info from her and how to contact her to buy the comic book.

"Please help raise awareness and funds for the liberation of Ahmad Nelson. An innocent native New Orleanian whom has been in jail for 4 months on false charges of killing an off duty police officer. The prosecution has no hard evidence. This is something that happens everyday to helpless black youth. Without the proper, and expensive, legal defence, Ahmad Nelson could be put away for something he had nothing to do with."

"There is a comic book for sale ($5) that illustrates Ahmad's actions the night of the murder of Officer Wes Williams. The website to get more information about the case and on going events, fund raisers for Ahmad is www.ahmadnelson.com"

"I can be reached at the following:

961 Eastern Parkway B-15, Brooklyn, NY 11213, adapiggy4@hotmail.com

Thanks

Adalina Merello"


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08-19-02   dean: this and that

Gina asked me to send you all to her webjournal to find out more updated info on how to respond to the Washington Post's pronoun problems. Also, you should look at the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition's website for more information on these murders and other important information about the dangers we're facing and the things some people are and aren't doing about it.

In other news I had the most amazing meeting with Tara about the video I want to make about bathroom issues. I'll be posting the call for videotape once its fully composed, and I hope you'll consider helping me gather the footage I want from different parts of the country. I also had the treat of getting to go to Fire Island for the day with Tara and watch the beach-loving queers freak out about our chests in the non-violent way that is so much more fun than what happens when I go to Coney Island. We also saw the hottest old fag ever wearing a lavender thong and white buttondown tied at the waist topped off with a white Gilligan boat hat. Shouldn't we all be wearing that outfit?

Finally, have you guys read the cool thing boots wrote about pronouns?


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08-14-02   dean: nyc events and trans teens killed

first, a few events listings I just got off the Youth Activists-Youth Allies NYC Bulletin which is amazing and which you can get sent to you by emailing yayabull-feed@youthlink.org.

Sunday, Aug 18th, 2pm SURVEILLANCE CAMERA WALKING TOUR OF LOWER EAST SIDE. Intro to emerging surveillance society &selection of cameras surveying public space. Meet at NE corner of Houston & Ave D. Rain/shine, no reservations nec. Info: 212-561-0106, , www.notbored.org/the-scp.html

Sunday Aug 18th, 3pm QUEERS REPORT BACK FROM PALESTINE At Gingers Bar363 5th Ave (btw 5th & 6th St) Park Slope, Bkln. Info: 917 617-4030, 917 517-3627

Tuesday, Aug 20th, Noon-6pm RECYCLE THIS! Recycle-In at City Hall, demanding that recycling of glass & plastics be reinstated & improved in NYC. Bring your recyclables!). Be creative. Noon-1:30pm: Press Conference & Teach-In. 1:30-5pm: Art construction, bottle & petition gathering, tabling, etc. 5pm: Closing rally. Info: www.recyclethisnyc.org. Join the listserve at keepNYCrecycling@yahoogroups.com

Tuesday, Aug 20th, 10pm "SENORITA EXTRAVIADA" documentary on women of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, & their struggle for justice. Since1993 more than 270 young women have been abducted, raped & murdered in Juarez. On PBS channel 13.

Wednesday, Aug 21st, 6:30pm STOP POLICE BRUTALITY, repression & the criminalization of a generation. Kickoff meeting to plan 10/22 march & rally. At Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), 666 Bway, 6th fl (btw Bleecker & Bond). 212 673-6008, oct22ny@yahoo.com, www.october22.org, www.geocities.com/oct22ny

Sunday, Aug 25th, 2pm SURVEILLANCE CAMERA WALKING TOUR OF HARLEM. Intro to emerging surveillance society & selection of cameras surveying public space. Meet on SE corner of 125th St & Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. Rain/shine, no reservations. Info: 212-561-0106, , www.notbored.org/the-scp.html

second, gina sent me this link to the Washington Post story about two trans teenagers who were recently murdered. the story hideously misuses pronouns, and Gina has crafted the letter below which you should i encourage you to adapt and send in with your own message to the Post at webnews@washingtonpost.com.

Dear Washington Post editors ~

My name is Gina de Vries, and I work at the Youth Gender Project in San Francisco. I am writing in response to the article "Transgender Teens Killed On D.C. Street," by David A. Fahrenthold (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10333-2002Aug12.html).

In the article, Fahrenthold uses Stephanie Thomas' birth name, and he uses male pronouns for both Stephanie Thomas and Deon Davis. Thomas' and Davis' gender expression and identities as female were referenced several times in the article -- why, then, were they each referred to with male pronouns and names? I find this disrespectful and in extremely bad taste, especially considering the fact that these two women might have been killed because of their gender expression.

The 2000 AP stylebook lists under the entry "sex changes": "Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics (by hormone therapy, body modification, or surgery) of the opposite sex and present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly." Why did David A. Fahrenthold ignore the AP stylebook, and why didn't an editor catch it?

I strongly encourage you to print a correction and an apology.

Thank you for your time ~

*Gina*


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08-12-02   dean: more transpain

ick-o-rama. i just spent a really hideous day in court learning for the millionth time and in new special ways about how trans people have our heads firmly planted under the poisoned spiked boot of the medical-legal industrial complex, about how there will never be any voice or justice for poor people in US courts, and about how fucking brave and amazing and endlessly beautiful trans youth are in the face of the ceaseless onslaught of abuse we call the foster care system. yeah, i feel terrible, and useless, like nothing i can ever do will help or matter or be enough.

but anyway, i'm posting this unrelated excerpt from an email i wrote about the complexities of using anecdotes in my essays and dispatches on this website. i'd love to hear your thoughts, of course.


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08-09-02   dean: quicky

two things. first, boots has a new webdiary thing and he's just put up some amazing stuff that you need to read right now. second, i just wrote something to a trans listserve in response to someone's post about trying to figure out what bathrooms to go to based on a variety of factors. i thought i'd post my little response here just for kicks. i wrote "i think that its such a fucking intense mental moment--that bathroom deciding game. i feel like people see me so many different ways, so i'm always trying to guess, which is a totally losing game. then i go through this stupid mental inventory of my body through a regulatory framework that i totally dont believe in, like "well, i'm wearing a lavender shirt, but its tight so you can see my flat chest well, but my bangs are long, but blah blah blah." i hate this--trying to view myself through a binary that i dont believe in and am trying to escape, all for my safety. as much as i love looking confusing and unclassifiable, it is such a source of stress in gender segregated spaces, and i'm so concious of that of course since my bathroom arrest. ick. i'm sure you can all relate. i think that a lot of non-trans-identified people can also relate. all the more reason to de-gender bathrooms." to this end, i'm about to start a mini-campaign to de-gender the bathrooms at the non-profit that is hosting my trans law project, and i'm thinking of making a short film about my arrest and other trans and gender variant people's bathroom experiences that will be aimed at convincing institutions like service providers and other non-profits, and schools, to think about chaning how their bathrooms are classified. i'd welcome any thoughts, suggestions, rad footage, etc. never made a movie before.


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08-03-02   dean: does anyone still read this tired-ass site?

its true, craig and i are still alive, but you wouldn't know it from our total absence, would you? can you forgive? there are a thousand things i want to write here, about the rad anti-prison conference/film festival i spoke at in seattle (i'll post what i said soon, promise), about how i saw Over the Edge and almost died of teen-lust-outfit-delight-itis, about the good and the weird aspects of my accidental presence at the very expensive Bay Area Ladyfest, and so much more. however, complex forces like my move back to NY reality after 4 months of unemployed SF bliss, the impending visit of my foster parents (9 hours away) who are still tripping about what they understand as my "sex change," and the fact that i now need to create this trans poverty law project that these foundations have thrown a bunch of money at me for, has been getting in the way of my html lifestyle. i vow to improve. for now, here are two links. first, a link to a speech by new friend eli from the queer disability conference that Colby and I went to in SF. Second, katrina directed me to Trans-Health.com which seems like a good thing to know about. Also, pure excitement that our favorite boyfriend down under, Az, has started an email list for trannies to talk about low-hormone and no-hormone options, and all the things that go with that topic. if this interests you, email me and i'll hook you up with Az.

finally, here's a dispatch emily wrote (directly below) that it took me way too long to post because i'm a terrible person:

Dude, so I'm in summer school. This so totally blows. I am so not skipping next year. It's got me working the equivalent of six days a week, which I know plenty of people do and more all their lives, but, as a friend keeps reminding me, that hardly makes it good, right or fair. To put all of your days and many of your nights into the machine that is working to kill you too early--not okay, not okay at all. But occasionally there is a moment of true inspiration that makes me sit up and say, "It is worth it to sit here while these strangers yak at me about their 'interesting jobs,' too many of which are in the service of archiving and preserving shit that is OVERarchived and OVERpreserved, like the romantic and mythical stories of brutal oppressors--it could not possibly be worth the resources to keep in chilled acid-free boxes every last scrap of paper from Tudor England. At some point we should say "Enough" and put those resources into archiving and preserving the stories of struggle and resistence, the history of the people who stand *against* brutality and inhumanity, the histories so quickly forgotten and so cavalierly discarded while the papers of senators receive more than their fair share of space, attention, and care. Anyway. This librarian was telling us about storing books written on parchment, which is a kind of treated goat skin used 'back in the day' before paper made out of wood pulp. The problem with storing books made of parchment is that the pages buckle and 'bulk up' unless humidity and temperature controls are perfect, so they grow to become two or three times the size of the original book. That means they're taking up space that is not allotted to them, crowding out other stuff that you could put on the shelf. The thing, though, about the specific way that goat skin buckles is this: Goat skin always tries to go back to the shape of goat. It's not just buckling; it's trying to become the leg it was before the application of the human hand. Now, treating goat skin is a totally violent act. You have to pull it off the goat. Scrape it with knives. Dip it in chemicals and dyes to get it to lie flat. They call the state of goat skin when it has been brutally forced into parchment 'relaxed.' That's the relaxed form of the goat skin--when it has been beaten flat, into submission. But no matter what you do to a goat skin, it will ALWAYS go back to the shape of the goat. If the parchment came from the leg of a goat, it will curl around into the shape of a goat leg. A pile of parchment will take on the shape of a goat. I don't mean to say at all that there is some essential goatness to which the goat skin returns. Goats come in all kinds--some are monsters, some are robots, some simply stand around and eat grass or hay or whatever it is that goats eat. And the shape of a goat changes all the time, depending on things nobody--not even the goat, probably--understands. But no matter the violence applied to the skin of the goat, it will always return to the shape it once was. Something to learn, maybe, from the goat in terms of resistance. Just gotta make sure you stay away from temperature and humidity controls that are too strictly observed.


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07-07-02   dean: not bitter, just tangy?

I was trying to sit down and write something different than the things I usually write, but it seems like I couldn't get to anything else until I had this story out of me, so please bear with the rantiness, and join me in hoping that eventually I'll get to something more beautiful.

One night A— came over who is a friend of B—‘s from college, and someone I’ve met before. We had a drink at the neighborhood bar, and a fucked up conversation. She told the story of a mutual aquaintance of hers and B—‘s, someone they went to college with who has subsequently transitioned to a male identity. Apparently another friend of theirs got a landscaping job where this transitioned guy worked and was ‘passing’ (‘being passed’ as M— would smartly say) as a non-trans guy. The co-worker friend told the boss that the guy was trans, and the story was that the guy called up the co-worker and yelled at her for telling the boss this, and said that he doesn’t consider himself trans. A—, the person narrating this story, set it up like “I want to run this by you guys” and told the whole story as if the big climax is how fucked up this guy is for not identifying as trans. It was like she had decided he had fucked up gender politics, and now she was excited to come tell this juicy story to us, her radical trans friends, so we would agree that her analysis was right, that this guy’s gender identity is politically problematic. Of course, I couldn’t get over the fact that A— seemed to have nothing to say about how awful it was for her friend to talk to the boss about her co-worker’s gender identity. I mean, how is that defensible? Why would she need to share that with the boss, besides because it’s juicy sensational gossip, and how could she not realize that she was violating his choice about disclosure and risking his employment in that and future jobs? Instead of interrogating that behavior, A— was using her critical abilities to wonder whether this guy’s identification as ‘non-trans’ was politically fucked up, and turning to me and B— for confirmation.

This is my worst terror, that the work I do to explain my own experiences bumping up against gender policing and dichotomy-defending in trans communities, and the work I do to produce critical perspectives about how we all are constantly reproducing restrictive gender for each other and ourselves, will be used as further ammunition for judging tranny bodies. My question to A— was, you have tons of close friends who don’t identify as trans? Do you think they are fucked up? Why is this guy any more obligated to identify as trans than anyone else?

I am so sick of trans people’s identities being put under a fucking microscope—by doctors who tell us we’re not normal enough to merit medical treatment, by feminists and queers telling us we’re too normalizing, by lawyers and judges telling us we’re not ‘sick’ enough or ‘real’ enough to merit protection from discrimination. When I write about my frustration with rigid gender norms in trans communities, I’m not trying to make an argument that trans people should look more like me, or pass as non-trans people less, or that trans people have a special responsibility to tear down gender. I’m making an argument about how we should treat each other when we differ from each other, and how we should aspire to not take on and enforce on each other the values of the non-trans world that tell us we suck. There is a big difference between critiquing gender policing and critiquing the individual gender expressions and identities of people. Maybe I’m not making that clear enough in my writing, because I keep getting hate from trannies who think I’m saying its bad and backward to present in a way that looks “passing,” and I keep encountering queers and feminists who think my writing gives them authorization to determine that there is a right way to be trans (to be genderqueer, like me, how flattering!) and a wrong way (to pass as non-trans or not take a political trans identity out in the world). What this writing is trying to do is create more space, not less. There has to be space to see that we are all participating in creating gender, we’re all capable of stopping policing each other and ourselves, and we’re all entitled to express our gender as we see fit. Does anyone hear me? I feel like I need to go back to every single thing I’ve written on this website and write at the top in red “If you’re a non-trans-identified person, and you’re reading this to get confirmation that trans people who wear “passing” gender or understand themselves to “fully transition” to male or female identity are bad, please stop reading this and go think about your own fucking gender.”

What does it mean that, while in most of the world my gender identity is something that no one can comprehend and that causes me non-stop explaining and exhaustion, in a certain world of queers, I’m a much more comfortable tranny than most others? To a bunch of people I know, dykes and fags with feminist leanings who’ve always felt a little uncomfortable about how trans people seem to really believe in ‘male’ and ‘female’ gender in way that doesn’t work with the theory they read in college, I’m the easiest tranny in the world to know. I’m out there, doing the work of occupying trans identity in a genderfucked mixed up body, refusing words like ‘man’ and not chasing the dreaded ‘straight privilege’ trannies are often accused of taking on, and legitimizing trans identity for them. For them, my way of doing it is okay. What I’ve hoped is that all these things I write cause people (trans, non-trans, whatever) to look inward at how they are experiencing various kinds of gender privilege, and how they can avoid making other people feel bad about their gender, and talking about the kinds of things that I struggle with that I think people might be interested in hearing because they struggle with it too or are accidentally participating in creating hostile situations for trans people. What I don’t want is to be creating a set of rules about what is okay radical trans gender expression and what is not, that can then be enforced by the judging eyes of non-trans-identified people who feel allied to me. I don’t want to be providing words and perspectives to non-trans-identified people that will help them meet other trans people and think “oh, that person is so wrong, they are so invested in dichotomous gender that they actually think they are a man!” Meanwhile, of course, the speaker understands herself or himself to be a man or a woman uncritically, but they aren’t trans, so its not noticeable.


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